On paper, Tiger Woods should win this year’s Masters and, based on his performance in San Antonio last week (2nd), Rory McIlroy should give him a real run for the money.
Tiger has won six times in the last two years, most recently at Bay Hill, and everything about him exudes confidence. He’s playing at a very high level, he is totally enthralled with his kids, he and Sean Foley continue to do leading edge work and his new relationship with Olympic skier, Lindsey Vonn, seems to be settling in, primarily because we don’t hear anything about it.
I feel comfortable with every aspect of my game. I feel that I’ve improved and I’ve got more consistent, and I think the wins show that. That’s something that I’m proud of so far this year, and hopefully I can continue it this week and the rest of the year.
Life is better since I’ve had kids. It’s a beautiful juggling act (smiling). I think as people who are all parents in here will certainly attest to that; that’s the joy in life and to be able to be a part of their life and watch them grow and help them grow. Getting out there and taking them on the golf course with me every now and again, they will have a great time.
[Sean and I] are still always messing with things, tinkering around with things. I mean, things are always — golf’s fluid. We are always trying to get a little bit better somehow and refine it, and there’s always room for refinement. That will never change.
And put on top of that, his assessment of the course:
The golf course is in fantastic shape. I came up here last Sunday on Easter and played 18 holes. Played this week, well, 14 holes on Sunday and played nine yesterday.
The golf course is playing pretty long. It’s pretty dry. But the greens are coming up to speed and they are starting to get there. They have the ability right now, I think, that they can basically put this golf course however they want. They can slow it down. Won’t take much to speed it up.
And it’s going to be, hopefully going to be a dry Masters and we get to have some excitement out there.
And on top of all of that, he’s the clear consensus pick by virtually everybody. Oh, there are some who have picked others, but that’s just to avoid being redundant.
I think it’s true that Rory is the number two pick of most people, but not as much of a lock due to the fact that his new found rounding into form in San Antonio is a one-off so far.
I thought last week, it went really well, almost perfectly. I got what I wanted out of it in terms of playing more competitive golf, getting the scorecard in my hand, shooting scores. I think a bonus was getting into contention and I felt like how I played when I got into contention was really pleasing. You know, I chased Martin [Laird] down there pretty hard on the back nine. Most Sundays when you shoot 66 in these conditions, it’s going to be enough. I just got beaten by an unbelievable round (63) that day.
But if it is a one-off, at least it came on the eve of his favorite tournament:
I love it. I mean, it’s my favorite tournament of the year. I think everyone knows that. I think it’s a lot of guys’ favorite tournament of the year. It’s the one you’re looking forward to the most.
It’s just a very, very special place, and it’s a place that’s very special to me. It’s very special to probably a lot of people in this room. I don’t know if I can explain it. But I just, you know, every time you drive in the gates here is a big thrill.
And finally, he lays out a master’s sense of the subtlety and nuance that makes Augusta National what it is:
You have to err on the right side and give yourself a little margin for error here, because you’ve basically got mini greens inside the main greens here and it’s all about trying to hit those. And if you don’t hit those, then where is the best place to 2‑putt from or where is the best place to get it up‑and‑down from?
You know, so if you hit it in the — say you miss the fairway on 7, for instance, and you hit it in the right trees or the left trees. The best place to hit it is the front bunker because the front bunker is a relatively simple up‑and‑down. Whereas if you leave it short of the front bunker and hit it over the back of the green, a 4 all of a sudden is a very, very good score.
So just a matter of knowing where to, if you do get yourself in trouble, get it out of trouble and know when you get it out of trouble, where the best place is to save your par or to limit the damage as much as you can.
Others who are playing well and would not be surprises if they won would be: Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Charl Schwartzel and perhaps Matt Kuchar.
Then you have big names that could come out of the tall shadows of those mentioned above: Adam Scott, Bill Haas, Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan.
And then you have the group of great players that once they won a Masters, everyone would say, “Of course:” Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald and perhaps, Jim Furyk.
All the while keeping in mind that before he birdied the last four holes to win the Masters in 2011, most people had no idea who Charl Schwartzel was.